Jodie Ballenger experienced more in her childhood than many of us will experience in our lifetime.
Her mother was a prostitute, and her father chose his new wife over her, leading to neglect and abuse. This impacted her life in ways she never imagined.
"I thought I had a good life until I was nine years old," Ballenger explained. "I was in third grade coming home from school, and there was a moving truck in our driveway. I walked into our house, and our house was empty. That's when my mom told me she was leaving my dad."
Ballenger and her mother moved from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Cleveland, Ohio, where they moved in with Jodie's aunt.
"They were major drug dealers, and within a week, at nine years old, I was smoking pot and popping pills. My life was never the same again."
Life went in a downward spiral from there. When Jodie was 11, she began fighting and was in and out of juvenile detention. At 14 years old, she became addicted to meth.
"Thank God, the state I was in put me in a faith-based reform school. We had to go to church six days a week. That was life-saving to me," Ballenger explained. "I loved it. I could tell they cared for us."
While in reform school, she met her now husband, Billy.
"At first, he was another boy in a string of boys I would turn to for sex and comfort," said Jodie.
After 14 months, she was released from the reform school. She returned to her old ways.
The school connected her with a new church in hopes of helping, but they shunned her, making her feel useless and leading her down a path of destruction.
What Jodie didn’t know was how Billy and a couple of strangers would change her life.
Today on Connections, Jodie shares her powerful story of redemption and faith.